We must speak out despite the climate of fear

David Cameron

Dr Siema Iqbal, who recently criticised David Cameron’s radicalisation  speech in the Guardian newspaper, says Muslims must speak out despite the climate of fear.

A few weeks ago the Guardian published my response to David Cameron’s Speech. The positive response was truly overwhelming but I was also surprised to hear a common theme of…”you’re brave…you’ve got guts for speaking out…you have voiced exactly what I think but I’m too afraid to say it….” and so on.

My parents came to this country to build a better future for their children. They were not as vocal about intolerance perhaps because they felt they weren’t entitled to be here as they were immigrants but I was born here, grew up here and as a British citizen consider the UK to be my home as much as any other person of any other faith or none.

I use the title “British Muslim” to make the differentiation between my generation and that of my parents’ generation and as a disclaimer to voice my opinion.

Many however are too afraid to speak. They fear the consequences of voicing an opinion, whether it’s to their careers or “being put on the radar.”

Some people use factors such as “we need to clean up our house first” as a reason to stay silent and to those people I say let’s recognise and take responsibility for the fact that the Muslim community isn’t without its faults.

I completely agree there is work to be done around better integration, practising the values of Islam in our daily lives and the misinterpretation of Islam by a minority of individuals, but does that mean we should be silent against unjust foreign policy, vilified by parts of the British media and accepting of Islamophobia and double standards?

mediaOthers state that Britain has been a tolerant country and Muslims have been able to practice Islam quite openly so we should stay silent, but I am concerned that this right is no longer protected and all the good work that was done after the 70’s into not isolating communities, having mutual respect and tolerance for each other is being eroded away by ill-thought legislation being introduced.

Every person – whether of Muslim faith or not – has a responsibility to tackle any threat to any person but let’s also remember that the threat of extremism can occur from far right groups as well as the Muslim community and by speaking out we have to ensure that this threat is addressed in all communities.

Fear mongering is used by politicians with David Cameron stating “radicalisation being the struggle of our generation.” It is a problem that needs to be tackled but in the correct way and it needs to be put into context.

Bigger threats such as smoking, alcohol and the collapse of the NHS will kill far more people in this country than terrorism ever will.

So write to the media to provide an alternative narrative, engage with grassroots organisations that work alongside the media and politicians to create change, support independent publishing outlets, spread the positivity of Islam through dawah.

But staying silent will mean voices such as Quilliam will be the only ones being heard. Quilliam do not represent me. I’m not a writer, politician or expert but I’m also not a victim because I speak out or an apologist because I stay silent.

I’m not brave. I want to maintain my identity as a British Muslim, protect my rights to practice my faith and secure a safe, fair future for my children and if using our voices to positively contribute to society and fight inequality is what is needed then let’s do “speak the truth till our voices shake.”

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